You are on page 1of 8

On the Call of Female Schoolteachers to Christian Congregational Schools

Teachers in this country nowadays constitute an important factor in public education. Mostly female staff functions in the state schools. But in Christian congregational schools we see female teachers at work, albeit in a limited measure. This is nothing new in the church. A rubric is also found in the old Lutheran church orders about the service of "female school masters"; to them was entrusted the instruction of the "damsels".1 As one has since again recently raised the question: How? Is this right? Is this true to God's Word? And how has one to esteem the call of female teachers in church schools? This question will be examined here briefly with God's Word. The Church of Christ is familiar with diversities of gifts. Among these gifts includes offices or services, . And there are various services.2 The apostle mentions a number of such gifts and services in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, for example. It is not the opinion that he wants to count them all. He notes in particular those that were the prerogative of the apostolic church, miraculous gifts and miraculous works, with which the ecclesia primitiva3 was decorated. At other times, other services in the church have arisen that the first Christians did not know. All gifts and services are given to the church, and the church, the community is lord over them. "All things are yours", even Paul, Apollos, Cephas.4 The community, in turn, is subject to Christ and God, is mistress over all things and therefore has the power and the right to organize and set up all services according to their needs and circumstances. The standard for this is , "for the common good".5 Only one thing should here be noted. All ecclesiastical services are somehow related to the Word, to the service of the Word. Christ has ultimately summarized all things that He has commanded and entrusted His church in these words: "Preach the Gospel to all creatures." Go, teach, baptize! Even, e.g., such a service as caring for the poor and nursing has relationship to the Word. Where this service is rightly ordered and is rightly practiced, there God's Word gains proper tangible form in the life of the community. And that is why all other services are for the most noblest office, whose establishing of the community is not only put in the hand of the community, but also is commanded by God, subordinate to the parish pastorate as a helping service. The pastor of the community is according to Scripture , the teacher, the shepherd and overseer of the community, he is responsible for the entire community and must someday give an account of his accountability.6 Thus, e.g., the lay elders7 are helpers of the pastor in oversight, help him on their part admonish and warn individuals with God's Word.
1 2

Cf. the relevant article in the November, 1896 issue of the "School Journal", p. 328. Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:5. 3 Primitive Church. 4 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. 5 1 Corinthians 12:7. 6 Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3; Hebrews 13:17. 7 die Vorsteher.

One of these services which the community, namely as a mistress, has in their control is service to children, the school service. We do not find a particular service and particular servant of this kind in the early Church. As in Israel, the children of the first Christians received their first spiritual food from their parents, later from the elders of the community. In the course of time ecclesiastical education and the office of Christian schoolteacher evolved. That nowadays the appointing of a specific schoolteacher, the establishing of Christian congregational schools corresponds to the need of the church and serves for the common good, it is obvious. It is not necessary to dwell on this point. In that case, what hinders the congregation, who has the authority and freedom, to bring in female staff for service in the school? Yet some Christian virgin or widow has the particular gift to deal with children, to captivate and win the hearts of little children, even to speak rather childlike and simply about divine matters with children. However, one must not conceal from himself that a teacher in a Christian congregational school, provided it gives religious instruction, handles a part of the publica doctrina.8 If a female schoolteacher only in the lowest grades of the littlest children among the children perhaps inculcates the principal Bible stories, the first two chief parts of the Catechism, and a number of sayings and hymn verses, then she thereby teaches God's Word. She tells the Bible stories, but the right telling implies that she herself has correctly comprehended the sense and meaning of the story, and that, even through the speaking, makes accessible to the children the correct sense and meaning. And by question and answer she ensures that the children actually learn and grasp what they learn by heart, so far as their capacity allows. Therefore every female teacher actually teaches, and that is a public teaching. She teaches God's Word as an agent9 of the congregation. She is also persona publica.10 Admittedly, not everything that an official of the congregation does is public in the sense that it is widely known throughout the congregation. If e.g. a pastor by virtue of his office privately admonishes an individual, issues father confessor-like advice to a penitent in his private confession, then this is certainly not a public speaking and teaching. But what is spoken and taught in a classroom in front of a large crowd of children, that is by the very nature of things public. What a teacher, respectively, a female teacher, does or says in school, he does or says before the eyes and ears of the congregation. What makes particular impression on the child in the classroom, they talk amongst themselves and probably say it even at home to the parents. A single word of a teacher, whether it is actually an apt, enthralling or an awkward word, may soon make the rounds in the congregation. In short, it is evident that a female teacher sets up in her class just the same work which perhaps is done in the parallel class of another school by a [male] teacher. How? Doesn't God's Word forbid each and every public teaching of women? Is the rights and freedom of Christian congregation to divide the services at the school, according to its own best judgment, not restricted by such words of Scripture, such as 1 Corinthians 14:34-46 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14? All that matters here is the fact that we precisely have a look at these apostolic statements and bear in mind what the apostle prohibits to women and what he does not prohibit to women.

8 9

Public doctrine. als im Auftrag. 10 Perhaps best translated "official representative". - Tr.

Saint Paul gives guidance to the Corinthian Christians about the establishing and organizing of public worship, how they should hold it when they come together, in 1 Corinthians 14:26. In particular, [he gives guidance] about the proper utilization of the twofold , of prophesying and speaking in tongues. He inculcates to them at the last that the prophets should not speak piecemeal, but in succession, and about two or three in every assembly, so that the hearers can properly grasp what they hear. "For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace."11 And then he attaches a prohibition that affects women. "Women should be silent in the congregation." It must have happened in the Corinthian congregation, in which so much confusion was spread, that women acted as female teachers in public worship. The apostle sees a mess and now handles this mischief with determination. The next section of the chapter under consideration here probably starts with the last words of verse 33. It is attached to the following than to the preceding. We thus translate verses 33b and 34a as follows: "As in all communal meetings12 of the saints, your women should remain silent in the communal meetings." Communal meetings are meant in the expression , as well as . The of a Corinthian communal meeting could be nothing other than the public gatherings of the congregation. Indeed, the whole chapter is about how it should be held in the worship gatherings. The localization , "in the gatherings" is opposed to the other location , "at home".13 The opinion of the apostle does not mean that women keep silent in general in the realm of the congregation, should not speak on behalf of the congregation, but he means that they keep silent in the worshipping congregation and not speak, should abstain from public teaching. The fact that this and nothing else is the sense of the apostolic prohibition also arises from the reasoning of it. "For they are not allowed to speak, but to be subject, as the Law also says." The emphasis is on the . It befits women to be submissive. To whom? Apparently to men. The law says it. The apostle points to the word that God spoke to Eve in Paradise: "Your will should be subject to your husband, and he shall be your master."14 This was the beginning of God's will and command that women subordinate themselves to men in all things. And that is why it is forbidden to women to speak and to teach men in the public assembly, i.e., in the presence of so many men. Thereby they would place themselves over men. Because the teacher is superior to the student. For that very reason, because women should be submissive to men, they should remain silent in the worship assembly, attentively listen and listen to reason from men, the teachers of the congregation. By association they subordinate themselves to men. Because the student is subordinate to the teacher. Saint Paul also adds: "And if they would learn something, then they should ask their husbands at home."15 She more often joined a discussion in the congregational assemblies at the doctrinal presentations, a kind of doctrinal negotiation. Those who did not understand something, asked the teacher, and then was discussed on this point. Now the apostle did not even permit women to direct questions of that kind to the teacher and thus to cause a public discussion and to participate in it. Rather, they should ask their husbands at home. Paul spells out the reason for this by saying: "For it is
11 12

1 Corinthians 14:29-33. Gemeindeversammlungen. 13 1 Corinthians 14:35. 14 Genesis 3:16. 15 1 Corinthians 14:35a.

shameful for women to speak in a church meeting."16 Feminine discipline and modesty, restraint in dealing with men, flows from the subordination of women to men. But women violate and deny this feminine decorum and modesty when they somehow take up the Word at a public meeting, merely bring up questions, dispute with in order to draw attention and glances of so many men to themselves. What Saint Paul here prohibits to women and the community in terms of women is a direct, apostolic prohibition. He speaks categorically: "Women should remain silent." "It is forbidden for women to speak." On top of everything, he explicitly contends this his instruction as God's Word. "Or did the Word of God come from you? Or did it come to you alone?"17 The Word of God did not originate from the Corinthians, who had it handed down from others, and not them alone, it still came to many other places. But everywhere where the Word of God has reached, it is thus maintained in all other congregations precisely as the Word of God accordingly in the public worship that women are not allowed to be teachers. How very serious it is to the apostle that the natural relation which exists between man and woman, that the superordination and subordination would not be dislocated even in the Christian Church, one sees from 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. There he also deals with worship gatherings of the community and instructs the women to appear with their heads covered, but the men with heads uncovered. It was custom among Greeks that women wore a head covering at public gatherings and in particular in the temple and at idolatrous festivals, but the men could be seen with free, bare heads. The head covering of women was a symbol of their dependence on men, the free, bare head of men as signs of their dignity and sovereignty. What the apostle writes here of external garb and attitude, he introduces not as an apostolic commandment, not as a word of God, but he gives the Corinthians here some good advice, it is a laudable, established "custom", "18, in all other communities that he commends to them. He does not wish to get involved in further dispute with those who are of a different mind and are contradictory. In the end, Christian women can give their opinion to men, sufficiently maintain and recognize their dependence on men, even if they appear in church without a head covering. For the apostle, everything depends on the fact that they always and everywhere remain in their place. He thus recalls in this context the creation of man and woman and thus the set relationship of one part to another. "The man is not from woman, but the woman from man. And the man is not created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man."19 It follows that the man is head of the wife, the wife submissive to the husband.20 In Christ there is neither man nor wife, women are partakers of the same grace as men. But Christianity does not abolish the established distinction in the order of creation between man and wife. In external intercourse, in being together with men, even in worship gatherings, women should not forget, but demonstrate, that they are women, subject to men. But how? Does not the apostle lay down an exception to the rule precisely in this section that women, according to their natural position, should remain silent in the community, and perhaps gives us a right to similar exceptions, so that we could accommodate the call of the
16 17

1 Corinthians 14:35b. 1 Corinthians 14:36. 18 1 Corinthians 11:16. 19 1 Corinthians 11:8-9. 20 1 Corinthians 11:3.

female school teacher anyway under the exception to the rule? He writes: "But every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head."21 The apostle here does not forbid women to pray or prophesy, but declares it unseemly that they do so with uncovered head. One has interpreted this saying of St. Paul thus: that he himself was temporarily suspending his judgment on how to pray and prophecy, which he certainly had not approved, and merely blames the maladministration, of which he handles in this connection, the uncovering of the head. But it would be peculiar if he rebuked the incidental thing, which is an adiaphoron after all, the breach of a good, laudable custom, without also criticizing the main thing, the simultaneous violation of God's Word and order. Or one has relocated prayer and prophecy of women with uncovered head, quite obviously against the context, to private houses, to the family circle. No, the words of the Apostle suffered scarcely a different view than that in praying and prophecy of women per se, and precisely in public prayer and prophecy is nothing doubtful, if it only happens with their heads covered. But he has not in the least restricted or mitigated what he writes in 1 Corinthians 14 about silence of women. Neither prayer nor prophecy belongs to that speech which he directly forbids women in 1 Corinthians 14:33-36. Women should not teach in the congregational assembly, not appear publicly as female teachers, not instruct men, also not to dispute publicly before and with men. That is, as we have seen, the opinion of Paul in the aforementioned point. But neither prayer nor prophesying is included in this category. First of all, prayer is not teaching and discussion. The fact that women pray and sing in worship in and with the community and rightly pray with and sing along loud and strong is certainly only laudable. If they, as some maintain, act squeamishly and, instead of singing, whisper quietly, then this is certainly no proof of female modesty and restraint. But even the prophesying of women did not contradict the , "they should remain silent." The fact that women prayed in assemblies was something routine; if a woman prophesied, then it was something extraordinary. It did not occur often. Therefore the apostle mentions22 only prayer and not prophesying. Prophesying could not be prevented according to its nature which prophesying had, as God Himself supplied him the prophesying for the purpose of communicating it to others. The prophesying of which Paul here speaks was a miraculous gift of the apostolic period synonymous with , "revelation", expressly distinguished from the gift "of knowledge and teaching".23 The Spirit of God that reigned in the community once gave a special revelation once to this Christian, again to that Christian, even during the gathering, and then impelled him to express to those gathered what He reveals to him. Whoever prophesied was only an organ of God, God spoke through him. His person, his personal knowledge and understanding, completely stepped aside. And now it pleased God now and then, also to give revelation to a woman. While God prohibited women speaking and teaching in the assembly, He has not tied their hands with such an order that He made for the community. When He wanted, He could also again reveal His will through a woman. Has He not even opened the mouth of a donkey and through its mouth punish a prophet? Thus God had bestowed the gift of prophecy to those four daughters of the deacon Philip.24 However, this
21 22

1 Corinthians 11:5. 1 Corinthians 11:13. 23 1 Corinthians 14:6, 26. 24 Acts 21:9.

prophecy that God gave was likewise no teaching. When a woman prophesied, she simply reproduced what God supplied her, thus she did not encroach upon the Office of Presbyter who labored in the doctrine and were doctrinal, thus they did not impose themselves on the congregation, the assembled men, as female teachers, they did not put forward their own wisdom, they did not issue indoctrination and instruction to men from the congregation from their own Christian knowledge, experience, enlightenment. When a woman prophesied, they appeared only as a medium of the Spirit, their person stepped into the background, as if bound. That was a different thing than if they raised forth questions on their own in the gathering, made objections, began to debate and thus attracted the attention of all those assembled to their person. Thus the prohibition of the Apostle25 remains in force and validity under all circumstances and allows no exceptions. The apostle confirms and strengthens it in another epistle.26 He also speaks about worship assemblies in this context and exhorts the men with holy seriousness, the women to attend in modest dress.27 And then he continues: "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection."28 It belongs to the woman that she should hear and learn quietly and attentively what the teacher says to the community. The woman precisely through this subordinates herself to the man that she can be taught by him. The statement of the verse 11 is explained in more detail by verse 12. "I do not permit to a woman that she should teach, nor that she should be lord over man, but should be quiet." The in verse 12 corresponds to this in verse 11, in verse 12 corresponds to this in verse 11. The woman should learn and not teach. Therefore this speaking, the teaching in a public assembly is forbidden to women. Docendi potestatem in publico coetu adimit mulieribus apostolus.29 The woman should be submissive and not dominate the man. A woman would reject her subordination and dominate the man if they teach in public worship, i.e. would teach men. For whoever publicly teaches thereby spiritually dominates the one hearing him and determines their will. Nam nomine Dei praecipiunt atque imperant, qui publice docent.30 The apostle bases his admonition in a twofold manner. First, with regard to the history of creation. "For Adam was first formed, then Eve."31 Both, both that woman is from man, and that man is made before woman, brings with it that man is lord and head of the woman. Second, by remembering the history of the fall into sin. "And Adam was not deceived, rather the woman was betrayed and thus fell into transgression." The serpent deceived Eve.32 The emphasis is on the term , deceive. Bengel33 remarks finely and accurately: Serpens mulierem decepit, mulier virum non decepit, sed ei persuasit.34 The woman as the weaker vessel is more accessible to fraud and deceit than man. And woman
25 26

1 Corinthians 14:33-36. 1 Timothy 2:11-14. 27 1 Timothy 2:8-10. 28 1 Timothy 2:11. 29 Abraham Calov (1612-1686). "The apostle deprives women of the authority of teaching in a public gathering." 30 Calov. "For those who teach publicly command and give orders in the name of God." 31 1 Timothy 2:13. 32 2 Corinthians 11:3. 33 J.A. Bengel (1687-1752). 34 "The serpent seduced the woman, but the woman did not deceive the man, but instead persuaded him."

has in that case precisely seduced man and so entangled the whole human race in sin and transgression. The first instruction, which a woman gave to man, the first teaching of woman under the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has proceeded quite badly. That is why woman certainly is not suitable for the public preaching office. Ait igitur, quia semel mulier virum edocuit et cuncta perverit, idcirco nequaquam haec habeat velim de caetero docendi potestatem.35 What therefore the apostle forbids and prohibits concerning the teaching of women in the Christian communities is this: that women appear in worship gatherings as teachers, shepherd the word in congregational gatherings, that they teach the whole community, instruct men. For that is not consistent with the type and nature of women and of their natural position to men. And this apostolic commandment tolerates no exceptions. Even any possible emergency would not justify and excuse an exception to the rule. On the other hand, neither 1 Corinthians 14 nor 1 Timothy 2 nor anywhere else in Scripture simply prohibits all teachings of women. It is nowhere forbidden them to teach children, even if it is a flock of children, even if it is for the sake of the congregation. This does not contradict the female character and vocation, not even female modesty and restraint. Because children, it may be little girls or little boys, are simply not men. An upright Christian congregation will therefore withhold women from public ministry and preaching in all circumstances. They will chiefly hold in check and fight with determination all kinds of women's emancipation, which still inflicts greater disaster in the Church, as in the state. But on the other hand, if it is otherwise appropriate, they do not reject the service of a skilled, reliable female teacher of children who presents herself to you. Here we must, in order to come back once more to the foregoing principal discussion, well distinguish three things from each other with respect to publica doctrina: 1. The administration of the word is handed over and entrusted to the community as a priestly right. 2. God Himself in His Word has given to the community certain directives for the administration of the Word. 3. In all things, which are not here set forth by the express words of Scripture, the community has full freedom, merely that everything that it orders shall serve the common good. Thus it is God's command and order that they in all circumstances set up the parish pastorate and for this purpose call suitable people, and indeed only men, not women. Furthermore, that they ensure that all members of the community would be brought near to God's Word, i.e., the children receive their due portion of food. However, it is left to the freedom of the church, whether they shall allow instruction and education of the children only to the parents and the pastor, which in itself is prohibited in larger congregations, or whether they summon particular people for the spiritual care of children and whether they want to confer men only to this service or in addition also women. Meanwhile, each congregation should take care that they do not abuse their freedom and never let "the common good" out of their sight. It would be very wrong if they wanted to employ a female teacher because she is at hand and cheaper than a male teacher. A church fellowship would do evil if it would come to her there, that the female teachers make competition with the male teachers. All other things being equal, it is evident that college educated teachers usually make more than female teachers, who are not as much prepared.

Calov. "Therefore he says, 'Because a woman once taught a man and turned everything upside down, for that reason I would not want her by any means to have the authority of teaching the remaining man.'"

Under which circumstances a female teacher is nevertheless quite out of place should not be discussed here in detail. But one must not forget that whatsoever teacher, even instruction in the lowest school classes, in the ABC's of the Christian religion, requires a certain aptness to teach and a certain degree of study. The fact that a young girl has passed through quality schools with success, that she has the necessary gifts and knowledge, even before the little congregation takes her into their service, will receive particular guidance in teaching, whether by the pastor or an experienced teacher. In short, a congregation must indeed consider, if it has the best interests of the school in mind, whether females who are brought into teaching are indeed suitable for it. It often happens that a congregation hires a female teacher only for a certain time. How? Is this true with the church's call of female teachers? We answer with another question: Where is there a scripture passage which obligates the congregation, to hand over all ministries to the relevant persons for the long term? It is no doubt contrary to the manner and nature and task of the parish pastorate if one puts a specific time limit on the bearers of it. The pastor should encourage and bring his church further step by step in knowledge and all that is good, in that they grow to the perfect measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.36 And that can happen only through constant, persistent, patient work. To the pastor as the local shepherd the entire herd is handed over for pasture and care, so that on Judgment Day he may render an account of them. He is removed from this obligation and responsibility only if God Himself takes him away in some way. What applies to the parish pastorate does not apply equally to all ecclesiastical auxiliary services37. The congregational leader38 certainly can do what their office is even if they are only selected for a period of a few years. And even a female congregational teacher can certainly complete her work in a year in a one-year class. The Christian congregation also has freedom of movement in this part. However, it is only well done and serves the congregations benefit when a proven female teacher is appointed for an indefinite period with the agreement, of course, that she quits and is free of her debts, if another call opens up for her that is uniform with the female sex, i.e., when she has the opportunity to marry or when otherwise her strengths are sought for domestic work. Otherwise one may also say and impress upon the teachers what one has to hold about the call of the female teacher: that they, as they serve little ones, serve Christ and His Church, as they carry out their service in the fear of the Lord and with all faithfulness and diligence. Georg Stckhardt Originally published in Lehre und Wehre 43 (1897): 65-74 Translated by Rev. David M. Juhl The Third Sunday of Easter, A.D. 2013

36 37

Ephesians 4:13-14. Helferdiensten. 38 Gemeindevorsteher.